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dbrociner

Aged whisky (ey)

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As the topic states: how long is too long in the barrel when it comes to Scotch, Bourbon etc. ? I remember hearing the master blender from J & B interviewed on the radio back when J & B introduced their Jet label and he said that after 20 years in the barrel the spirit takes on so much wood flavoring that it becomes impossible to distinguish one spirit from another. Whats your opinion of this? As you well know, there are several 21 and 25 year old products out there all fetching mega bucks are they worth the money?

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You've opened a can of worms!

Years ago I tasted the 40-year-old Bowmore which bore a flavor that I couldn't identify. On the way home with fellow spirits freak, Paul Pacult, I discovered that he'd had the same problem. "Suppose it was rancio?" I suggested. Rancio is a flavor found in old cognacs, best described as earthy, mushroomy, lactic, and perhaps a hint of soy sauce. Cognac producers treasure this flavor when it occurs.

Paul & I decided that the only way to find out if rancio could exist in old single malts was to get as many old malts as possible and taste them. We approached the Rainbow Room in NY and suggested that we hold a tasting of the world's oldest malts there. They agreed so we then went to the scotch producers and asked them to go to the back of their warehouses and send us samples of the oldest drinkable malts they had. We ended up with 3 bottles from each of 13 distilleries.

Sure enough, we found rancio in more than half of them. The J&B guy was right (though not in every case)--the spirit had transformed, and in some cases it was impossible to tell it apart from a cognac, or even a very old rum.

As final proof of this, some years later I heard that a cognac producer had analized his brady to discover what was responsible for the flavor of rancio, and he pinned it down to 2 specific ketones. I asked him if he'd be willing to analize a scotch in the same way if I provided the whisky. Sure enough, thos ketones were present in the scotch.

Why are they there? How do they get there? It's just a case of advanced oxidization.

Some people hate rancio in scotch. I love it.

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Man... tasting 39 of the oldest drinkable scotches around. That must have been horrible. :wink:

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I was thinking: Tough job! But someone's gotta do it! :biggrin:

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No, it was just 13 different scotches--we needed 3 bottles from each distillery in order to conduct the tasting. Mind you, 13 ain't all that bad, either.

The funny thing about the results was that some of the scotch people hated the fact that we found rancio. And some cognac people weren't too keen on it, either. The cognac producers were upset that rancio could develop in other products, and the Scots weren't sure whether rancio would be suitable for their consumers. Still, though, if it's there, it's there.

I should add that I've tasted whiskies that have spent too long in the wood, and haven't developed rancio, but I think that sometimes, when an old bottling is proclaimed to be too "woody," it's actually rancio, but the taste is so foreign to most people they find it hard to pin down. My guessing that rancio was what we tasted in the 40-year-old Bowmore was exactly that--a lucky guess.

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I need to mention a few things here.

1) Scotch takes age longer than Bourbon.

2) Among Bourbons & ryes, it is very brand/proof dependent.

3) Crap in, crap out: age a poor whiskey and a poor (old) whiskey comes out.

4) 20 years IS what most experts say for American whiskey.

5) I've have bonded 100 proof Bourbon distilled 1916, bottled 1938 - excellent, still.

6) There is a form of mildew that can live in 100 proof whiskey. It'll look like tiny, tiny fish roe in the bottom of the bottle. You can still drink the whiskey, no problem, but DON'T SHAKE THE BOTTLE. If you do it'll all taste like liquid mildew, turn the color and opacity of a Yoo Hoo and NEVER go back.

7) I've never seen whiskey mildew in any bottle less than 40 years old and it is reasonably rare.

8) Though not about whiskey, I've always loved the way Andre Simon described an over-aged brandy: "A crusty old bachelor past his prime."

:smile: --Doc

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6) There is a form of mildew that can live in 100 proof whiskey. It'll look like tiny, tiny fish roe in the bottom of the bottle. You can still drink the whiskey, no problem, but DON'T SHAKE THE BOTTLE. If you do it'll all taste like liquid mildew, turn the color and opacity of a Yoo Hoo and NEVER go back.

7) I've never seen whiskey mildew in any bottle less than 40 years old and it is reasonably rare.

I guess that in the grand scheme of things, whisky mildew doesn't rank as one of the world's biggest problems, but it certainly sounds nasty. Good thing I don't drink much real old whisky.

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